Our Tumultuous Online Journey
The monks here at St. Benedict Monastery are very happy that our web site is finally at a level of reasonable functionality. During this year there have been previous attempts at creating a web site resulting in sub-standard presentations and frustrated monks. Actually, we had two web sites that were of poor quality and didn’t have a domain. They were both created with the same program which we thought would be adequate for a start, but the overall resulting quality was poor, especially the pictures. There were many other shortcomings of the software, so eventually another program was used which makes this web site possible today. This site is a “work-in-progress”, so we ask our visitors to be patient with any technical difficulties they may be experiencing when logging onto our site. We ask you, our visitors to let us know what you think of the site and inform us of any problems with the site (e.g. blank pages, non-functioning links, etc.).
Plans For the Future of St. Benedict Monastery Online
Our community hopes that this web site will be a source of inspiration for the future, so there are plans on expanding this site to include many new things. There will be more reflections (under the “General” category) which will be written by some of our monks and also some words of inspiration found in the Rule of St. Benedict and official documents of our Sylvestrine-Benedictine congregation. Our online photo album will be updated with more pictures of the monastery, the new chapel (still under construction) and the community (for those of you who asked, yes, there will be more pictures of our dog, Spike). Second, Brother Antony’s artwork will finally be displayed for the world to see on our online art gallery. It will include both his religious paintings and secular works. Any new works that he finishes will be added to the gallery as well. In the future, we are also planning on uploading a “Virtual Album” featuring music from our Schola and the monastic community.
Good News For Chapel Construction
For more than three years our new chapel has been under construction. Besides the incredibly demanding design aspects of the building and the renovation of the monastery, there has been many hold-ups slowing down the process. Lately, things have been going very well! Two major things are likely to happen which will point to the approach of the building nearing completion. In terms of being finished, it will probably be many months, but that amount of time is a “drop in the bucket” compared to the lengthy process of living with the noises, loss of privacy and overall messiness which comes with major construction projects. The first major project to be finished this week is the installation of the heating units. These units will heat the chapel and part of the monastery. This should make life a little bit more comfortable for most of the monks! The second major occurrence which cannot happen without the heating units installed and activated is the pouring of the concrete floors on the three levels of the chapel. We are expecting the concrete to be delivered next week. With most of the outside work completed, our workers can do their tasks which will make the interior of the building suitable for liturgical celebrations.
St. Sylvester’s Feast Day
Friday, November 26th was the feast of our
founder St. Sylvester Guzzolini (1177 -1267). To celebrate it, we
went on Wednesday November 24th to St. Sylvester Monastery in Detroit to
share with out confreres there the evening prayers (Vespers), followed
by supper, prepared by Fr. John Colautti. Present among us was our
Br. Damien, who had come from New York on those days to spend the Thanksgiving
holiday with his family and Paul Minnet, a live-in candidate for our community.
On the feast day itself (Friday), we had a community Mass in the afternoon.
No Heat in the New Chapel Yet
Our construction project is going through another minor delay. The heating units which were installed last week were supposed be activated so that the concrete floors could be poured for all three levels of the chapel. Apparently, there have been a few technical problems which caused the units to work improperly. The technicians installing the units believe that the problems could be corrected easily. Let’s just hope and pray that they can because with the concrete company trucks scheduled to deliver and pour the concrete this week we could possibly encounter the problem of having to re-schedule the delivery and pouring for the chapel floors.
Br. Damien’s Studies for the Priesthood
Br. Damien Gjonai is currently studying for the priesthood at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, the Seminary of the Archdiocese of New York. He began is priestly studies at St. Mary’s College in Orchard Lake and then continued for a couple of years at Bede College in Rome, which offers courses for late vocations. While attending classes at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Br. Damien lives in the Rectory of St. Lucy’s Parish in the Bronx. This parish recently has become part of the history or our congregation considering the fact that Fr. Bernard (one of the monks from our priory) lived there for 5 years and the fact that Br. Antony was one of its parishioners during that time. Given the proximity of where Br. Damien is studying now to our state of Michigan, he is able to come back for holidays, like he did for Thanksgiving Day. We expect him back also for Christmas season (Tuesday, December 21st), when he will be able to share his time again with family, friends and the community during such significant days.
Two Birthdays This Week!
Br. Benedict Guiliani
Today, Br. Benedict Giuliani celebrates 86 years of life and the Lord’s blessings. For 70 years, Br. Benedict has been a member of our monastic congregation. Although he professed the monastic vows in Italy, he lived most of his life in the United States serving the Lord with his fellow monks in the American Priory at St. Sylvester Monastery and the monastery here in Oxford. Br. Benedict is often the first monk in the chapel before the daily Mass and throughout the day, he can be heard whispering his prayers as he walks though the hallways of our monastery. Even today, Br. Benedict is very active as he takes care of the cattle on our property. He can often be seen in the morning and in the afternoon walking to the monastery from the barn, followed by his “trusted” barn pest control “expert” (actually, he is a cat named Dominic). Benedict has been a source of inspiration for the younger monks of the community, because of his perseverance in and acceptance of his monastic vocation.
Br. Antony Maldonado
This Tuesday will be Br. Antony’s birthday. Although most people think that he is in his 20’s, Antony will actually be celebrating his 38th year of life this week. Br. Antony professed his monastic vows four years ago and made his solemn profession in the summer of 1998. Br. Antony has served the community through is work with the youth in the retreat center and plays the organ for our liturgies. He was blessed the community with his patience and his talent for painting. Soon his works will be displayed on-line on our upcoming “On-line Art Gallery”.
We ask all our on-line visitors to pray for Brs. Benedict and Antony,
that the Lord will continue to bless them with good health and spiritual
Floor Pouring Delayed
After a brief delay, part the heating system
was activated the afternoon of December 13th. For various reasons,
the pouring has been rescheduled until next week. In the meantime,
the construction personnel will have more time to test the new plumbing
and heating systems. Unfortunately, without the floors completed
the Mass will not be able to celebrated in the new facility as our Prior
had hoped. Even with the delay, the monks here at St. Benedict Monastery,
after many set-backs that hindered the progress of the construction project
still remain very optimistic about the construction project overall.
They are also very grateful to finally have a functioning heating system
to keep their rooms warm.
A Construction Worker Suffers Serious Injury
Early last week Matt Becker, a carpenter who has worked on occasion in our new chapel, suffered an accident while working on another construction site. He is a member of the Ferguson Construction Company that has been involved with our chapel project since the beginning and more than 10 years ago participated in the construction of our retreat center. While constructing a geodesic dome with other fellow workers, Mr. Becker fell from the roof that resulted in a fractured pelvic bone and other serious injuries. At this time he is still in the hospital and is said to be recovering well. We here at St. Benedict extend our support to him and his family and ask for our Web Site visitors to pray for his recuperation.
A Positive Online Experience
So far, with the web site being functional for almost a month, we have been receive many positive and encouraging e-mails from our visitors. We realize that the site is still “under construction” and that there may be a few errors here and there. We would just like to ask our visitors to be patient with us as we seek to serve the Lord through this internet endeavor. Br. John Martin Shimkus has been given to task for the next couple weeks to sift through our entire site and make any corrections needed. Br. Gregory-David will also make alterations on some parts of the site to make it visually more appealing. We intend for the site to be a great source of information and spiritual strength for a broad audience of net surfers. We are always grateful for our visitor responses and prayers for our efforts!
12/27/99 No News
On Friday, December 31st, our candidate Paul
Minnet became officially a Postulant in our community. Postulancy
is the first stage in monastic formation, followed by Novitiate.
Paul, 42, had come to live with us in July while he still had employment
outside of our monastery. Paul brings to our daily lives the wealth
of his knowledge and experience in many fields. He received some
training as a chef and he also has worked as a landscape designer and a
physical education teacher. Now he serves as the foreman on our construction
project and has also helped with the students that come to our retreat
house. We thank God for the gift Paul represents for our community
and pray for his well-being and perseverance.
Seven Minutes With Tibetan Monks!
On New Year’s eve a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks came to our retreat house, where they spent the night. They are a group who have been touring the U.S. occasionally for several years and work on behalf of the refugees from their occupied homeland. Last week they were at the Detroit Institute of Art creating a Mandala - which is a traditional Tibetan art form. It is created out of colored sand which signifies life’s journey, then it is destroyed as a symbol that the outcome or result of the journey is not as important as the journey itself. Some of our neighbors from Upland Hills accompanied the monks in their visit. On New Years Day, some of our monks had the opportunity to visit these guests from the East and share with one another ideas about our culturally distant et similar ways of life and spirituality.
We Have Floors!!
Finally after the long delays, the concrete floors in the new chapel have been completed! As scheduled (actually re-scheduled) last week, the concrete was delivered and poured on the upper floor of the last Wednesday. This morning, the floor on the first floor was poured. Eventually when the entire building project is complete, the upper floor will be the used for the liturgical space (for the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours -- the Work of God). The lower level will be used by the monks for their work, such as printing and candle making. We have complete confidence that we will be able to use the chapel for our Easter Sunday Liturgy, even though the construction be not completed by then. By Easter, the essential accommodations for the liturgy will be in that part of the building.
First Mass to be Celebrated in Honor of the St. Benedict Prayer Companions
The Prior of our monastery has set the date for the first Mass to be celebrated in honor of the St. Benedict Prayer Companions. Fr. Daniel Homan scheduled the Mass on Monday, February 7th. The Prayer Companions is an online ministry in which lay people cooperate in prayer with the monks here in Oxford. Fr. Daniel believes that this type of fellowship of prayer strengthens the monks’ spiritual connection with our visitors. If you would like to be remembered during this Liturgy, please click here to get more information.
Br. Damien Prepares For His Return to the Seminary
After a highly appreciated holiday vacation, Br. Damien will be returning to Yonkers, New York to continue his studies for the priesthood. St. Joseph’s Seminary is a special institution for graduate level theology for “late vocations” to the priesthood. During this past semester, Br. Damien found that the approach to academics at that institution was more challenging than his previous studies in Rome. Particularly enjoyed his classes that were taught by Fr. Benedict Groeshel. Br. Damien is looking forward to returning to classes this Wednesday. He is also looking forward to his ordination to the diaconate later this year.
Br. John Martin Celebrates Life
On Thursday January 6th, Br. John Martin Shimkus celebrated his 34th birthday. He visited with his family on January 2nd for the occasion and celebrated it with his fellow monks on the proper day. Br. John Martin has been a great help to our community with his experience as skill as an organist and schola director. He is also a dedicated seminarian at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Michigan.
Retreat Season Resumes
After a break for the Christmas season, our schedule for retreats continued on January 7th. Our retreat center, Subiaco Retreat House, has been offering retreats for high school students (up to 40 at a time) for the Archdiocese of Detroit for more than 20 years. Usually retreats are hosted on weekends and there are many “Confirmation Retreats” that take place during the week. Also on occasion, especially during the Summer, the retreat house is rented to groups that conduct their own retreats or activities there. Usually the winter-spring months of our retreat season are the busiest because many parishes and youth groups prefer to come for a retreat during Lent in preparation for Holy Week.
The Chapel is Beginning to Shape Up
Our chapel that has been under construction for more than three years will soon get some “interior decorating”. Although the paint has been ordered, the interior walls have finished first. Most of the dry-wall for the second floor has been installed, but the “taping and mudding” have to be completed before the they can be primed and painted. So far, the interior of the chapel looks more appropriate for a liturgical celebration. When the painting is finished, the next major step would be the installation of the flooring.
After three weeks of being part of the “Monastery News Page” BenToons will now have its own page under a new format. Last weeks’ nine frame comic feature was the largest which caused some difficulties for viewing on certain computer monitors. Late last week, the decision was made to separate the comics from the news and implement a new format for future editions of BenToons. The comic will either be one long strip in which our visitors will have to scroll horizontally to view each frame, or each frame will be click-able to the next one. A new edition of the comic strip will be posted on our web site later this week.
Diaconate For Br. Damien This Weekend!!
Our community is looking forward to a very joyous occasion this weekend. One of the monks of our community, Br. Damien Gjonaj will be ordained as a transitional deacon on January 30th at St. Scholastica Parish in Detroit. The 12:30 p.m. Mass will be presided by Bishop Moses Anderson (Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit) and the event will be attended by most of our monks from Oxford and Detroit. Since Br. Damien finishing a semester at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonker, New York, he will be returning there immediately afterward to resume his classes. The ordination as a transitional deacon is the first step toward priestly ordination, which in his case will be sometime next Summer. Br. Damien was a friend of the community long before entered the novitiate in 1995. He made his simple profession in 1996 and professed solemn vows in August last year. Brother has been very active in the “Project People” ministry with youth during the Summer months and assists Fr. Dan and Mary Cummings in our youth retreat center when he has a break from his studies. Please join us in our prayers for Br. Damien’s spiritual preparation toward such an important step.
1/31/00 (Special Story)
Feast Of St. Scholastica
Thursday, February 10th is the feast of St.
Scholastica (d. 543 A.D.), St. Benedict’s twin sister and herself founder
of a monastery for nuns. A very special day of all Benedictines throughout
the world, it is even more so for us here in Oxford since one of our own,
Br. Benedict Giuliani made his simple profession of vows on that day 70
years ago! Br. Ben - as he is usually called was born in Italy
on December 13, 1913 and was among the first monks of our congregation
to come to the U.S. in the 30’s. He was present at the foundation
of St. Sylvester Monastery in Detroit, and then at St. Benedict Monastery
in Oxford. For many years he took care of our vegetable garden, he
cooked the meals and took care of the cows. Today, at the age of
86, he still single-handedly tends the cattle.
Many things have changed in our monastery and the Church throughout Br. Ben’s religious life. First the cultural change from Italy to the United States, then the change of the settings, from city (Detroit) to country (Oxford), then all the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. To all this can be added the incidents of his own life. From the sports injury that life him with only one kidney, the car accident that broke his sternum and the loss of his hearing. Through it all, Br. Ben has come through victorious thanks to his faith and his monastic conviction. He has become a silent but very strong presence in the lives of the monks here in Oxford. May God grant him happiness in his remaining years among us until he is called to his true home in the company of Jesus and His saints.
The Desert Day: A Time of Recollection and Reflection
Every now and then in our lives, we need to re-group, to re-examine, to re-collect ourselves so that we can best serve our Lord and one another to the best of our ability. The tradition of designating a special day for prayer and reflection continues to this day in religious life. The monks of St. Benedict Monastery on Tuesday, February 8th will have their monthly day of recollection to examine their lives through spiritual reading, prayer (private and community) and reflection. Even though the monks at St. Benedict (as well as religious throughout the world) pray several times everyday, a day of recollection is totally dedicated to those spiritual exercises without any interruption from the work and other activities that the monks usually take part in. Some of the monks also use this day to fast to mortify themselves and strengthen their focus on the Lord. All of the monks find value in monthly practice and believe that all people should take the time periodically in their lives to put everything on hold in order to relax, pray and reflect.
Father Joseph Will Celebrate His 50th Year as a Monk!
Next Wednesday, February 23rd will be the 50th anniversary of religious profession for Fr. Joseph Kulathinal, O.S.B. Fr. Joseph was born in India on October 27, 1928, made his monastic profession in 1950 and was ordained to the priesthood on August 6, 1957. Officially from the Makkiyad Monastery in India (founded in 1962), he later went to the foundation Navajeevan Ashram, in Vijayawada (India) and today helps the American Priory at Holy Face Monastery in Clifton, New Jersey. Fr. Joe, as he is known there, is very well liked for his hard working habits (even though he is 72 years old), his sense of humor and his very patriarchal appearance. His impressive white beard and his wisdom has earned him the nickname “Moses”.
One of the many anecdotes about Fr. Joseph’s life happened in India many years ago. He was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident and was taken to the hospital where he laid in a coma for several days. Since all the beds were occupied there, he was left in a hallway. The nurses did not want the flies of the tropical country to buzz around his face, so they covered it with a sheet. When one of Fr. Joseph’s friends came to visit him to find him covered completely with a white sheet, she thought that he was dead and went back to town with the “tragic” news. Unfortunately, the townspeople realized their mistake only after they had gone through all the ceremonies of bell tolling, prayers for the dead and building a casket.
As a result of some recent tests now we know that our dear Fr. Joe is suffering with cancer. Please keep him in your prayers as we do in ours, that God’s grace will enable him to battle the disease and enable him to continue to be an inspiration to us and to those who know him.
ARTWORK ON DISPLAY
Gracing our website this week for the first time are some of the many paintings done by Br. Antony Maldonado, one of the monks here at St. Benedict’s. Br. Antony began painting as a teenager with the help and instruction of his older brother, Tony. Over the years Brother honed his skills in both acrylic and oil, and the result is the beautiful paintings here on display.
Br. Antony favors still lifes, landscapes and religious subjects in his art. Many of his paintings grace the walls of our monastery and retreat house. The paintings you see on our website were done over the past ten years. Brother also has completed a small collection of scenes from San Juan which are presently under the care of family back in his native Puerto Rico.
Br. Antony’s gift has added a truly artistic touch to our monastic surroundings and we are happy to be able to share this gift with you.
The Holy Shroud Series To Be Hosted By Benedictinemonks.com!
For centuries, the Shroud of Touring, the acclaimed
burial cloth of our Lord has been an object of devotion, inspiration and
controversy for many Christians. Fr. Hilary Conti, one of our monks
from Holy Face Monastery in Clifton, NJ has studied and lectured about
the shroud for many years. During the season of Lent, our web site
will feature a weekly essay about the shroud written by him. The
“Holy Shroud Series” while informational and challenging, is primarily
a reflective walk-through of the various aspects of the Passion of our
Lord. Even if one does not accept the Shroud as the authentic burial
cloth of Jesus, the series of essays can be a very helpful tool for any
Christian to prepare for the celebration of Easter.
Monks Celebration of Faith and Unity Honoring Black History Month
This past Sunday, February 27, three of our
monks attended an ecumenical worship service at nearby St. Cyril &
Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Michigan. The service was sponsored
by the lay ministry students of the seminary to honor black history month.
The event featured preaching by Reverend Shirley Douglas, an African-American
who ministers at the Pine Hill Congregational Church while studying at
the seminary for her Masters in Divinity.
Among the many inspiring expressions of faith were scripture readings by several of the young men studying for priesthood; all of them are originally natives of Poland. Additionally, the children's choir of New Jerusalem Temple Baptist Church of Detroit gave a spirited rendition of several gospel songs and the puppeteers from Pine Hill Congregational Church presented a delightful musical number.
St. Cyril and Methodius Seminary is a Catholic institution for theological study founded specifically for the training of priests to serve Polish immigrant communities in the United States. Since the late 1960's, the seminary has expanded its program of study to include the education and training of Catholic lay ministers and those of other Christian traditions. The monks found the ecumenical service, hosted by the seminary's Shrine Chapel, to be a real celebration of a faith-filled unity that exists in a diversity of traditions and cultures.
Our Prior Speaks at Conference Focused on Youth
How to raise children right in our chaotic world is a topic of concern for everyone. This past Saturday, March 4, our Prior, Fr. Daniel Homan, O.S.B. and colleague Lonni Collins Pratt participated in a workshop that addressed just this issue. “Raising a Family: Connecting with Each Other” was presented by Oakland Community College and other groups at the O.C.C. campus in Auborn Hills, Michigan. The conference gave parents the opportunity to acquire much needed information on such diverse parenting topics as family communication, domestic violence, healthy parent-child relationships and Internet safety.
Fr. Dan and Lonni hosted a segment on Teen Spirituality in which they discussed with parents the common concerns and attitudes of today’s teenagers and the importance of nurturing the spiritual dimension of young people. Teens rarely see positive examples of spirituality in the media and so parents must teach their children how to pray, listen to their concerns and pray with them.
The suggestions for developing teenage spirituality came from the many years Fr. Dan and Lonni have worked with young people. Fr. Dan directs youth retreats at Subiaco Retreat House, located in close proximity to our monastery. He and Lonni have co-authored three books, two on teenage prayer and spirituality and one book on the Benedictine approach to life. Lonni is also a prolific writer in the area of spirituality.
Construction Project Update
The new chapel which has been under construction for over three years is nearing its completion! All the basic structures outside and inside the building have been completed. Nearly all of the interior walls have been primed and about 50% of them have been painted. This week some doors and molding will be installed and further arrangements for carpeting will be made. The most formidable task awaiting the project is the parking lot which leads to the chapel. Currently, there is a parking lot, but it is not high enough, so the area will have to be covered with dirt, then re-paved. The unique aspect of the entrance to the chapel is that it is designed so that those who are in wheel chairs will be able to come into the monastery through the same entrance as everyone else. Even during the winter months, the entrance “ramp” will not be a problem because the structure has a built-in heating apparatus which will prevent ice from forming on it. We ask our visitors and Prayer Companions to continue to pray for the completion of our project and the safety of our workers.
Last Sunday (March 19th), we had an unprecedented number of youngsters at our retreat house in attendance in preparation for their Confirmation. It was all due to human error; someone forgot to inform the new youth director of St. Mary of the Hills Parish (Auburn Hills) that our capacity was 40. So, with a group of 80 persons the logical thing would have been to schedule two separate retreats. But since the mistake was done already and no one realized it until it was too late to make any changes, we decided to host and direct the retreat anyway.
The welcome had to be done in our chapel, followed by refreshments served in the monastery refectory, and Fr. Daniel had to give his reflections in our chapel again - usually all three are done in the Retreat House. Then the group had to be divided into two groups. While Fr. Daniel celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation with some of them, Mary Cummings (co-retreat director) took the other youngsters to the Retreat House for a guided meditation. Once both Fr. Daniel and Mary were finished, they exchanged groups to do the same activities again.
The most challenging part, though, was to give food (pizza) to all of them at one time. After accommodating 50 in the Retreat House dining facility (which was intended to hold up to 40 people), the remaining 30 were taken to the lower living room where, some sat on the couches and others sat on the floor or stood.
Finally, the Mass was celebrated in the living room of the Retreat House - its chapel being too small for such a large group. Thank God everything was done in an orderly way and on time. Thanks also for the cooperation of the youth and the patient adults (most of them parents) who came with them.
The staff at the Retreat House is making every effort to ensure that this situation (even though it turned out well) does not happen again!
Feast of St. Benedict
Last week the Church had two Solemn feasts, on Monday St. Joseph (which was moved from Sunday, March 19), and the Annunciation on Saturday. To this unusual situation for a week in Lent, it must be added that here in the monastery we had two other feasts particular to our Order: on Friday there was the feast of St. John of the Staff - a contemporary of our founder, St. Sylvester - and the death of St. Benedict was observed on Tuesday. It is a special feast day in addition to universal feast day of St. Benedict, celebrated July 11.
We celebrated the feast of the founder of our
Order, St. Benedict with Mass at 9:00 a.m., a council meeting at 10:30
a.m. - the first meeting for new Council members Br. Gregory Grabow and
Br. Antony Maldonado - followed by Midday Prayer and a special meal, prepared
and served in the retreat house by (our Postulant) Paul Minnett.
Some of our brother monks from St. Sylvester Monastery in Detroit were
able to join us for the occasion. They were: Fr. Livy Paoli,
Fr. John Stopponi, Fr. Bartholomew Kraemer, Fr. Bernard Shinn and Abbot
Leo Cornelli (former Abbot General of our congregation).
The chapel’s sliding wall will be erected this week. What makes this wall so unique is that it is made of leftover paneling which was intended for the ceiling. There were enough unused panels to create five eight-foot sections for this wall. The inter-locking panels will be bound together by metal cords laced through each one, creating a strong, but moveable structure. A special customized track was ordered to fit the almost quarter-circle contour of the ceiling. Each of the panels has a special set of wheels attached to one end that fit on the track to enable the heavy wall to be moved with relative ease. Being made of the same product, both the wall and the ceiling give the chapel’s interior an enhance wooden motif. The sliding feature of the wall enables the chapel to be reduced in size when there are not many people in it (such as during the divine office and weekday Masses) and also to accommodate a larger number (on Sunday’s and holidays).
Chapel Progress Report
This week in our new chapel the installation of most of the glass for the railings and interior walls should be completed. Because of the nature of tempered glass, it has be measured accurately before it is delivered, so it is still questionable whether or not this kind of glass will be installed by the end of the week. Fortunately, most of the interior glass is not tempered, which means that it can be cut right on sight. Already with just a few of the panels installed, the interior of our chapel is looking more like a place of worship instead of a construction site. Another decorative touch to the interior to be added this week will be the light fixtures on the ceiling and the walls.
As far as the plumbing is concerned, a new water softener tank was delivered last week. The very large plastic cylinder will be used to treat the cold and hot water for both the chapel and the monastery’s “professed wing” (the side on which the monks in solemn vows are now living). The unit will require about 800 lbs. of softener salt to operate properly. Hopefully, the monk who has the duty of filling the tank will be able to finish the job without losing his back!
The Wall To Go Up This Week....Really!
As mentioned last week, the sliding wall designed to increase or decrease the “worship area” was scheduled to be erected by this past weekend. Unfortunately, the specially designed tracks for the wall to slide on are the problem causing the delay. Due to an incorrect configuration, the tracks when installed did not conform to the contour design of the ceiling. Fortunately, one of our carpenters figured out a way to work around the problem in a manner that does not compromise the overall theme of the interior design. The moveable wall is to be erected this week. There are no other foreseeable delays this time. Thanks be to God!
Our web sight will feature archived news from the past weeks so that our visitors can keep up-to-date on the events and changes that are happening here in Oxford. By next week, 17 weeks of past “Monastery News” will be uploaded in a simple, text-only format. Special news stories such as Br. Damien’s ordination as a deacon will retain the normal “news” format and pictures.
Tenebrae Service at St. Benedict's
During the Triduum - Holy Thursday, Good Friday
and Holy Saturday - our morning prayers will include special prayers called
the Tenebrae Service. It is usually long because there are three
Nocturnes (or group of psalms to be recited) in Vigils, something that
normally happens only on Sunday. When the community gets together
in the chapel for the service, it starts directly with the first psalm,
since the normal opening of “O Lord, open my lips...” and its response
is omitted. Also the “Glory be” is never said at the beginning of
the service, nor at the end of each psalm.
Before the beginning of the service 15 candles are lit. The rhythm of the recitation of psalms of both Vigils and Lauds is marked only by the silent extinguishing of one of the candles as each psalm ends. After each Nocturn, a “Lamentation” is sung. The lamentations are taken from te book of the prophet Jeremiah and are set to Gregorian Chant. Selected monks alternate in the singing of these beautiful laments.
At the end of the psalms of Lauds the “Christus Factus” chant is sung by all the community. Each morning of the Triduum, this chant progressively ends at different points until the entire chant is sung on Holy Saturday morning. All the music during this service is vocal and the organ is not used. After the “Christus Factus”, the monks kneel to pray the Our Father in silence. Then the Prior recites a short closing prayer, after which the monks depart from the chapel quietly. For the monks here in Oxford, this special morning Office is the most elaborate celebration of morning prayer every year.
4/24/00 No News
A Joyous Easter Celebration
Our community celebrated the Easter Vigil Mass on April 22nd in the small chapel at 9:00 pm. The Liturgy started under the arches by the main entrance of the Monastery. After the of blessing the fire and lighting the Paschal candle, the monks and the rest of the worshipers processed into the dark chapel with lighted candles. There, Br. John Martin sang the “Exsultet” and then we continued with the Liturgies of the Word and Eucharist. The number of guests who joined our community for this celebration was about 80. Fortunately, there were enough chairs arranged in the chapel for everyone to sit comfortably. The presider at the Mass was our Prior, Fr. Daniel Homan who gave a “reflective” homily based on the character of Joseph of Arimathea.
This year our gathering after the Easter Vigil took place in the still incomplete new chapel. This was an opportunity for our guests to become familiar with its interior and to appreciate the progress of the project.
Even at the beginning of Lent our community
entertaining the possibility of celebrating this year’s Easter Vigil in
the new chapel. With that in mind, a lot of work was done during
these past weeks by our workers, ourselves and our friends. Projections
were made with the different companies involved to have the tiles and carpeting
delivered and installed just in time for the desired date. But as
often happens with construction project, where the help needed comes from
so many people in different places, some of our expectations were not met.
As of today, most of the tiles by the entrance and the bathrooms are installed,
but we have not received the carpeting yet.
Nevertheless, all the recent efforts have brought us closer to the completion of the project. Thanks to the work of our laborers and friends the light at the end of the tunnel can be seen very clearly.
The parish of St. Lucy is situated in the New
York borough called "Bronx". It is an area that is about as far removed
from our quiet Michigan monastery as one can imagine. The streets
are busy with the sounds of passing cars and honking horns (a New York
staple). The surrounding neighborhoods are "multicultural" to the
nth degree - a mixture of Hispanic, Italian and African Americans.
The rectory stands like a fortress, with buzzer systems and locks for everything:
though the streets are not particularly perilous during the day, this is
not a place where one keeps the doors unlocked at night.
In this most urban of settings, Br. Damien Gjonaj, O.S.B. has been topping off his priestly studies with an intensive program of pastoral ministry. Br. Damien, of our Oxford community, is in his last months of preparation for ordination. He has spent the past year in academic studies at St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, New York, while simultaneously living and working at St. Lucy's in the Big Apple. The experience has been very rewarding for Damien who says he has learned a great deal. In a booming parish where six Masses are offered each Sunday in three languages, there is a lot to do. Hospital visits, wake services, preaching (Brother is presently a transitional deacon), and a new youth group which he started, are all part of Damien's weekly rounds. "Father Bob (Norris) is training me well for my future ministry - it's been a great experience", Br. Damien reports. And when Damien returns to Oxford at the end of May he will bring with him a rich personal knowledge that will benefit our community and all those to whom we minister.
"Barn Cat" Recovering From Injuries
On the evening of April 29th, our cat, Dominic came to the back door, severely scarred and battered. Apparently, he had gotten into a fight with another animal. Most of the monks believe that it was a raccoon. Dominic proved himself to be a “fighter” by this event. All of his injuries were in his face, a sure sign that he fought toe-to-toe (paw-to-paw, actually) with whatever adversary he was facing. Immediately (with the Prior’s permission), Br. Gregory-David and Br. James rushed him to a nearby veterinarian so that the deep scratches, cuts and lacerations could be taken care of along with a diagnosis of any serious diseases contracted during the skirmish. The next day, the cat was brought home with an antibiotic medication (which he is given twice daily). The possibility that he could have contracted rabies during the fight was high and the monks were told that any symptoms would become apparent within ten days. So far, with nine days passed, next to being a little lethargic (which is common for cats after such an occurrence), he is almost back to “himself” again.
Visitors Discern Monastic Call
Over the past year, St. Benedict Monastery
has become better know through vocation advertising, InterNet exposure,
and word of mouth. As a result there has been an increase in the
number of those seeking information about becoming a monk. In fact,
during the month of May the monastery is welcoming a half dozen men from
around the country (and Canada) for discernment visits. These visits
are a necessary step on the road toward any religious vocation. They
offer a close-up look for those who think they may have a monastic vocation
as well as a chance for the community to meet prospective candidates for
On his first discernment visit, a guest will usually stay for the weekend (though other arrangements can be made depending on the circumstances). Subsequent visits are often longer as a candidate becomes more certain about pursuing a vocation in this community. During each visit, the individual follows the regular regimen ("horarium") of the monastery. He participates in liturgical prayer, sacred reading, work, meals and recreation. He meets with the vocation director and has a chance to interact with the monks. And, of course, he has ample time for quiet, prayer and personal reflection.
We hope that the cumulative effect of these experiences will help our visitors to better understand the monastic vocation, particularly as it is lived here in our monastery, and that the visits provide a clearer sense of their own personal vocation within the Church.
On Wednesday May 10th, Br. James Locke celebrated
his 48th birthday. His candles decorate our altar and are gifts for
many of the young people who come to our retreat house. He joined
the community in October of 84’ and is our diligent candle maker.
Apart from his work as candle maker, Br. James is very busy from Spring
to Fall with outdoor work such as mowing the lawn and planting flowers
and trees. Last Saturday (May 13th), Brother went with his family
to celebrate the occasion.
This week, on Tuesday May 16th, Br. Gregory-David turns 28. He is still the youngest member of our community. Gregory-David joined us in 1996 and recently earned a Bachelor’s degree in Pastoral Ministry from Madonna University. Currently in temporary vows, he will be eligible for Solemn profession in November of this year. Br. Gregory-David is mainly responsible for the creation and maintenance of this web site.
Our community congratulates our Bros. James and Gregory-David on their birthdays and than God for their presence in our community. We also pray for their perseverance in religious life for many years to come.
This Sunday, May 21st. at 2pm, there will be
a Living Rosary and May Crowning here on our monastery grounds. The
event is sponsored by the Lake Orion Knights of Columbus and the prayers
will be lead by our very own Fr. Michael Green who has been their chaplain
for many years. Everyone who is able to attend is invited to join
us and the KofC for this special occasion.
On Sunday, May 21st, the Lake Orion Knights of Columbus hosted
a May Crowning on our monastery grounds. Many people from the area
and relatives of the Knights prayed with the monks on a day which God blessed
with comfortably sunny weather. Fr. Michael Green, Subprior of our
community who is also chaplain of the Lake Orion Knights of Columbus led
us in the recitation of the Rosary and the Litany of the Blessed Virgin
Mary. he also expressed with deep gratitude our appreciation for the witness
of faith that all the visitors gave by their very presence. The “Living”
behind our present chapel was made up of the Knights along with three of
our monks who each holding a balloon which symbolized one of the Rosary
prayers. After the five decades of the Glorious Mysteries were completed,
all of the “living beads” released their balloons as a symbolic offering
of our prayers to the Lord. All present then processed toward the
statue of Mary which the Knights brought for this occasion and recited
the Litany. Finally an entourage of boys and girls crowned
a statue of Mary and decorated the area around it as a symbolic gesture
of our recognition of the status that her beloved Son has given her.
Before the Knights and our visitors were dismissed, they were invited to
tour interior of our new chapel (still under construction) and enjoy some
Last Saturday, May 30th, Br. John Martin Shimkus
set out for a journey to St. Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana.
In preparation for his Solemn profession of the monastic vows, he is on
a privately directed retreat and will be returning on Monday, June 5th.
Solemn profession is the final step in the commitment of one’s self to
our monastic way of life. For the monk this is meant to be the high-point
of his life because it is the definite and final commitment to monasticism.
In November of 1996, John Martin made his first profession of temporary
vows and renewed them once every year thereafter. Although the opportunity
was available, Br. John Martin decided to renew his temporary vows last
November instead of making his solemn profession at that time. He
did this because he felt that he could not adequately prepare himself during
a semester of theological studies at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary.
With the winter semester completed, John Martin and the community scheduled
his solemn profession during the celebration of the Eucharist on Saturday,
June 10th at 10:00 a.m. Many members of the Shimkus family along
with friends and neighbors of our monastic community will be present to
pray for and with Br. John Martin. We ask you, our web site visitors
to pray for our brother that during his retreat the Holy Spirit will strengthen
and guide him in this very important step in his life.
Retreat Season Comes to a Close!
On Sunday afternoon a group of 38 teenagers along with a few adults from St. Thomas More Parish came to our Retreat House in preparation for their Confirmation. The significance of this retreat was that it was the last one of the 1999 - 2000 season. The building itself will still be used during the Summer by youth groups from St. Hugo of the Hills, St. Mary of the Hills and St. Irenaeus Parishes. They will use the retreat house as their headquarters for their charitable projects. As with previous years, there are also other groups scheduled to use the center for their particular activities.
Chapel Interior Looking Better All the Time!
The interior of the chapel is really shaping
up as a beautiful place of worship. Last week, a crew of four carpet
layers began the task of installing the carpeting for the interior of our
new chapel (still under construction). Today, the second floor (the
main level) is nearly complete. The blue and brown textured carpet
covering about 10,000 square feet is a perfect compliment to the blue steel
beams and the wood fixtures. The remaining huge rolls of carpeting
will be used for the first and third floors of the chapel. The third
floor will almost be completely carpeted, while the first floor will have
carpeting except in the large area designated for the print and the candle
Other projects which have recently been completed are the installation of three of the seven stain glass windows above the sanctuary which depict the sacraments, the wood finish on the baptismal font and the benches in the bridge connecting the monastery to the new chapel.
- Br. John Martin Shimkus will be professing his solemn vows this Saturday,
- Br. Hugo Eccher, from our monastery in Arcadia, Australia passed away last weekend at the age of 59.
- Rev. Br. Damien Gjonaj arrived home last Friday from a brief stay at our monastery in New Jersey. He just completed his studies at St. Joseph Seminary in New York and will be receive priestly ordination this August.
6/13/00 Special Story
Project People 2000
From June 25th to Sunday July 2nd, a group of teenagers from St. Irenaeus Parish in Rochester are going to come to our retreat house for a week of prayer, work and sharing in an event called Project People. It culminates a long process of preparation during which the youngsters and their leader - youth director Mary Cummings - raise money and purchase materials and tools for their work. During the week the teenagers to go out to the homes of needy people around the area to help them improve their houses and their lives. Roofs are repaired, walls are painted, fences are constructed, grounds are cleared, lawns are mowed along with other tasks which bring more dignity to the needy families. They are witnesses of the efforts of the youth to share the Gospel through their charity.
This idea originated many years ago when Fr. Daniel (our Prior) and Mary Cummings took a group of teenagers to the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky to work for the very poor people of that region. But as rewarding as their experience was, they decided to bring the idea closer to home. This way the youth would learn that the practice of charity. According to the Gospel our generosity toward the poor is a duty, not a choice - can be done in our surroundings where, if we are willing to look close enough, we will find Christ in the lonely, forgotten, poor people in our area who need our help.
Also during this special week the teenagers live a very simple life, putting into practice the Benedictine motto of “ora et labora” (prayer and work) by starting everyday with prayers in our chapel before going to their daily labors.
A group of friends, neighbors and parents help in the tasks of preparing the meals, directing them at their work sites, driving them to the work areas, etc. and needless to say, these adults also benefit spiritually from their involvement in this charitable enterprise.
Project People has been so rewarding and inspiring for everyone that in recent years some of the other nearby parishes - St. Hugo and St. Mary of the Hills - have developed their own similar programs during the Summer.
May God bless and multiply the efforts of Project
People and similar groups that teach our youth the virtue of sharing the
love of Christ with others in need.
New Choir Stalls
The choir stalls for the new chapel were installed
last week. The forty-eight units occupy the area in front of the
sanctuary. The choir stalls (which look like vending machines when
closed), were actually built by one man. Keith Shuert, a long time
friend of the community donated his time and a lot of wood which he collected
over the years to build the units. The unusual design is the creative
product of both he and our architect William Wyzinski (designer of our
retreat house and new chapel). The stalls were built in about 13
months, and, thanks to the generosity of Keith’s wife, they were stored
in his house for almost a year. These choir stalls feature a sliding
kneeler, two drawers (for the breviary, hymnals and other books), a built-in
book prop, a lamp and a sliding seat. Finally with the choir stalls
in place in the chapel along with the carpeting, the light at the end of
the tunnel (the completion of the chapel) seems to be more of an attainable
reality than ever before.
On Thursday, June 22nd, our community was planning to celebrate the 57th birthday of our sub-Prior, Fr. Michael Green. Unfortunately, before supper that day, Fr. Michael received a call from Clawson Manor that his mother's health was failing considerably. Fr. Mike rushed to the independent living center and found that his mother had already started to recover. To his surprise, she was sitting up in her bed and conversing with some of the attendants and nurses. It would be an understatement to say that he was relieved. There is still some concern about the possibility that this could happen again because of her age (she is over 80 years old) and her weak heart. The following evening, the monks celebrated Fr. Mike’s birthday. Fr. Mike has been here at St. Benedict Monastery consistently longer than anyone else besides Br. Benedict (who is 85 years old). Here at the monastery, Fr. Mike is known for his hard work ethic. For many years he has labored on an apple orchard, hay fields and in our print shop. Fr. Mike is also known his gregariousness and his ability to make people laugh.
- Immediately after his priestly ordination in August, Rev. Br. Damien
Gjonai will assume the responsibility of Novice Master for our community.
This week the new chapel’s progress toward completion was marked by two special additions. First, a very beautiful stain glass window was installed on the side of the building this past weekend (July 1st). This piece of art was the work of our very own Fr. Livius Paoli who resides in our monastery of St. Sylvester in Detroit. Even at the age of 87, Father is still able to express his artistic skills by creating such a large display. Another special addition this past weekend was the walkway leading into the main entrance of the chapel. The walkway was designed to accommodate everyone, therefore a wheelchair access ramp is not necessary. With the chapel scheduled to be blessed on the 15th of July, most the essential work needed to be done is finished. Finally after two years of missing our projected dates for celebrating the Mass in the new chapel, it will be a reality in less than ten days! Thank God!
Project People: A Success!
The 18th Annual Project People week ended last Sunday, July 2nd. This year 18 teenagers from St. Irenaeus Youth Group in Rochester, MI participated. Along with the staff, some of our monks, Fr. Daniel Homan (the Prior of our monastery), Br. Damien Gjonaj, Br. Antony Maldonado and Paul Minnet (our postulant) worked with the adults leaders of the parish as they guided and worked with the youth on their projects.
The youngsters from St. Irenaeus prayed, lived together (in our retreat house), and worked for the poor and needy from June 25th to July 2nd. Among the many work tasks that had to be done, two large projects required attention for the entire week. Both were houses, one of which was about an hours drive from the monastery needed its roof repaired and the other of these projects (which was much closer) needed to be repainted and the landscape beautified. The weather conditions were favorable during the day when they worked, but the late afternoon and evening rains prevented some of the planned outdoor recreational activities.
The traditional closing “Thanksgiving Dinner” celebration was attended by the youth, their parents, staff members, clients and most of the monks, took place on the monastery grounds on Saturday, July 1st. As always, the teenagers’ parents contributed most of the food. The sunny, mild weather provided the perfect environment for such a wonderful outdoor celebration.
We would like to take the opportunity to thank
all the people that year after year make Project People possible.
The volunteers in the kitchen, staff members who worked at and directed
the youth at their job sites, and all the people whose donations of money,
labor, tools and other goods make this charitable event possible.
- The Abbot General of our Congregation will arrive from Rome on June 13th for the blessing of our new chapel.
A Special Benedictine Feast Day
Today is the feast of our monastic father, St. Benedict. This feast commemorates the life of the man who’s Rule helped revolutionize Western monasticism. For over 1500 years, St. Benedict’s sons and daughters have carried on his way of life. It is a life of prayer, work and communal sharing. The very reason why our order has survived so long was because of the monks and nuns who have lived the principles contained in Benedict’s Rule.
Our community here in Oxford celebrates this day with special liturgies including a solemn Mass. Another important aspect of our celebration is that the monks take a day off from their normal duties. In the middle of the day we gather with some of our brother monks from our monastery in Detroit to share a festive banquet. Today we are united with all our Benedictine brothers and sisters around the world as we honor our founder and recommit ourselves to the monastic life.
7/18/00 Special News Story
Our Prior, Father Daniel Homan and Lonni Collins
Pratt, a good friend of our monastic community co-authored two books.
This past weekend was busy for both of them because they were promoting
their works. On Friday, July 21st, they had a book signing for their
most recent work, “Benedict’s Way” at Domino Farms in Ann Arbor, MI.
Then on the following Sunday, they promoted both of their books and signed
copies of them at St. Joseph Parish, just a few miles away from our monastery.
So far both books have sold well. Their first entitled, “Here I am
Lord: A Prayer Journal For Teens” is intended for teenagers to help
them develop their spirituality. The second work, “Benedict’s Way”
applies the principles found in the Rule of St. Benedict to everyday living.
Both books can be found in most major bookstores and also on Amazon.com.
Soon these books and other items through our online gift shop (when it
is established). The books retail for $9.95 and $15.95 respectively.
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